Sometimes when you learn a skill a little late in life, you wonder how you’ve been doing okay at life so far, without knowing the skill. That is how I felt at the IWMF’s Hostile Environment and First Aid Training (HEFAT) retreat in April. I genuinely feel that everyone across the world should know basic first aid and also how to react and act in hostile situations.
It was interesting to realize that there were some tips and tricks that I had picked up over the years, as a journalist, without anyone explicitly teaching them to me. For instance, when you are covering a protest, instead of placing yourself in the middle of the crowd, you want to keep moving between the sidelines and the middle, to maintain a balance between your safety and your coverage.
There were other things, however, that I have never thought about. For instance, what to do if a colleague is shot; how to treat someone who has been shot in the arm differently from someone who has been shot in the stomach; understanding the difference between bright and squirting blood vs dull and oozing blood. And while we are on the topic of shootings, before attending the HEFAT I didn’t realize that hiding in a closet or a bathroom in the middle of a mass shooting is not the best idea (typically there is no way to lock or barricade a bathroom or closet).
The training consisted of various sessions, discussions and seminars, but every day we had at least one simulation. The instructors wouldn’t tell us from before what challenge we would face in the simulation but it was based on things we had recently learned. Learning by listening is wonderful, but learning by doing is exponentially better because you are much less likely to forget it. What I mean is, now, if I am ever in a situation where I need to tie a tourniquet on someone, I will remember at least the basics, or if I am in an active shooting situation, I will remember how to barricade the room properly.
The best part of the HEFAT though, was meeting other women journalists. It was a really special week to get to know so many amazing women and hear about the joys and pitfalls of their careers.
The one downside of the HEFAT was that I had to miss classes and time at the Globe, and getting Covid-19 while traveling didn’t help – there seems to be a general consensus across the country that the pandemic is over, but speaking as someone who is still experiencing fatigue, I can tell you the pandemic is very much still alive.
After wrapping up the HEFAT and dealing with Covid-19, I was excited to come back to Boston and finish up classes and start my final month at the Boston Globe.